A tragic lesson was learned when the mounted soldiers and their horses rode into the war-torn front, with the barbed-wire trenches and the clouds of poisonous gas that The Great War was all too known for.
Previous to the “War to End All Wars”, the cavalry was a significant and critical element of the armed forces for various countries, but as the scale of war evolved, so, too, did the ways in which they were fought and in the weapons employed.
War changed but the way we tried to fight it when all hell broke loose didn’t. We still clung to traditions past, for there was nothing that could predict such a war and there was nothing to compare it to except for the battles which paled in comparison. We simply weren’t prepared, and the horses, the cavalry charge from yesteryear, perished. A trail of blood and loss led us back to the drawing board. There was no home for horses in the trenches, only graves.
We learned, we found ways to kill more effectively, and since then, the practices of the two World Wars have served as the foundation for all wars. Bombs pelt Syria from the sky as they once did in Vietnam, and tanks stormed the Iraqi deserts as they had in Africa. We’ve been following pronounced and predictable footsteps. We’ve been following a path that has led us in the wrong direction. We’ve been fighting wars on fronts thousands of miles away, when the real battle has been waged in our streets, in our places of business, and in the formerly safe spaces that have brought excitement to our everyday lives, the hidden nooks that once helped us escape the terrors our world has to offer.
With the attacks that took place on September 11, 2001, we came to learn that a new war was on its way, one that knew nothing of borders and took no interest in the conquest for territory. We were too busy worrying about the range of intercontinental ballistic missiles from crazed dictators to ever think about airplanes flying into skyscrapers.
We were too busy playing Risk, and yet, despite the tactics employed by our enemies, despite the reveal of their trump card, we stormed Iraq and Afghanistan as we had stormed countries before. We rode our horses into the desert and found car bombs in return. We discovered an enemy that was willing to kill themselves to take others down with them.
There was no longer a figurehead, a Hitler or Stalin for us to place the blame on, but that didn’t stop us for pointing our fingers at Bin Laden and Hussein, that didn’t stop us from believing that their deaths would save lives and bring an end to the War on Terror. But in the wake of their deaths, Syria continues to claim lives, a gunman murdered 4 in Brussels, Taliban gunmen stormed a school in Pakistan and killed 148 people, 17 were lost at the offices of Charlie Hebdo and a grocery store in Paris, 21 were slain in Tunisia, 150 gunned down in Kenya, a suicide bomb claimed 31 in Turkey with another 95 months later, a plane crashed in Egypt with 224 passengers, and 129 tallied in Paris just a week ago. This “war” has just begun.
Our enemies no longer wear uniforms. They are no longer recognizable, and as much as we’d love to blame a culture, a religion, or a group of peoples, there is nothing for us to grasp, there are only short straws for us to pull. Like the Red Scare that dominated the Cold War, our enemies are among us.
They were born in our country and in those of our allies, and have been sickened with unimaginable thoughts. These people walk among us. They’re in our towns, our cities, in our shopping malls, and sitting next to us in the movie theatre. This is their home and they make their plans in the shadows, not on the battlefield, and not in the Afghan mountains or the local mosque. They’re plotting under our noses, but we’re too busy engulfing the other half of the world in flames to pay any attention. They’re in our backyards, but our soldiers are storming places we haven’t even heard of until we looked them up on a map.
These words are not meant to incite fear or to keep you from doing what you love. That’s the enemy’s objective. Instead, we must learn to fight this fight in the shadows, we must once again employ a retired tactic that has now found resurgence in fantastical spy films.
We must hunt in secret and we must be ruthless in our search. We must make them feel like they have no home and they should be afraid to look over their shoulder. They should be afraid of the movie theatre or the school, the business, or the city because they can feel the noose tightening around their necks, and they can see us on the horizon.
This extravagant, expensive war of old has claimed far too many innocent lives on all sides and has created a monster of an enemy that must be put down in the night before its wickedness can once again see the light of day. Far too many of our horses have been led to slaughter.